Editor’s note:This article originally appeared in TechRepublic’s Wireless Technology TechMail. Subscribe to it now.
Anyone who remembers the earlier days of Internet browsing—with modem speeds as low as 14.4 Kbps—and longs to surf from Mobile Anywhere USA should be drooling at the thought of 3G. In the days of wired surfing, you could go get a cup of coffee, converse with coworkers, and stroll back to your desk before a Web page loaded.
That was also when only key personnel were granted limited access to the Internet. How soon we forget. With the comparative lightning speed of broadband, you can imagine what mobile wireless surfing access is like now and what the future will be like with 3G.
Flashback to wireless infancy
A bit of nostalgia is in order for those who don't recall or understand the earlier 1G and 2G wireless phones. First-generation phones were archaic by today's standards and were commonly referred to as brick phones for obvious reasons—their size and weight.
Along came 2G digital phones with their ability to carry both voice and digital and cram more data in the same bandwidth, as well as a lot more features like voice mail, text messaging, and roaming. Although text messaging hasn't caught on in the United States because of competing transmission standards, 3G technologies will change all of that.
For the past few years, the hype about wireless access to the Internet has been enticing. After much ado, we've also learned that we're not quite there yet due to the snail's pace of access time and the limited content available to mobile surfers.
There is, after all, a very small screen on most mobile phones. And 2G wireless networks are only capable of connection speeds approaching 14.4 Kbps. So we're outgrowing 2G just like we outgrew 1G. With 3G on the horizon (or shall we say "Verizon"?), we're just starting to imagine what this strange new world will be like once it becomes mainstream. Fasten your seatbelts—3G will allow speeds up to 26 times faster that could approach 2,000 Kbps!
Yet another obstacle to rapid 3G deployment is the need for more towers, since the trade-off to faster data is shorter signal ranges. Then there's the question of who pays for the content delivered to wireless customers. With those small screens, advertising messages will be lost.
Will users be willing to pay for accessing content in addition to their wireless charges?
Unlike wired Internet connections that rely on TCP/IP protocol so that any make/model computer can connect to the Web, wireless devices use the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) to connect to the Internet. (There's also an entree by NTT DoCoMo with its i-mode protocol, but we'll save that debate for another day; however, competing technologies may evolve to a hybrid of sorts.)
On the Verizon
Meanwhile, technology companies like Lucent Technologies and Verizon Wireless are forging ahead with plans to lay the groundwork for the launch of 3G later this year. According to a recent news release, the two companies plan to speed the introduction of 3G technologies in the United States and have signed a $5-billion contract, which positions Lucent to become Verizon Wireless' largest supplier of 3G high-speed wireless services to the United States. (Verizon Wireless is the largest wireless communications provider in the United States with 27.5 million wireless voice and data customers.)
When the coast-to-coast network is operational later this year, it will mean 3G has arrived in the United States. This first phase rollout will use the CDMA2000 technologies, which comply with the standards established by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Verizon Wireless customers will be the first to tap into a growing list of new applications that require very high-speed data transmission, giving the company a significant competitive advantage over other providers. And it also means that we'll all have a faster connection to this strange new world soon.
Will this be the kick that wireless needs?
For all the success that cellular phones have enjoyed, the wireless Internet has lagged far behind. Will 3G be what changes the equation? Give us your opinion in a discussion below.